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Pregnant teen dies after abortion ban delays her chemo treatment for leukemia

From Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs Editor
August 18, 2012 -- Updated 1511 GMT (2311 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The pregnant teen dies after doctors delay her chemotherapy
  • Doctors say the treatment would violate the country's abortion ban
  • She finally started treatment after a 20-day delay
  • "They have killed me, I'm dead, dead. I'm nothing," her mother says

(CNN) -- The mother of a pregnant leukemia patient who died after her chemotherapy was delayed over anti- abortion laws is accusing doctors of not putting her daughter's health first.

The 16-year-old's plight attracted worldwide attention after she had to wait for chemotherapy because of an abortion ban in the Dominican Republic.

Doctors were hesitant to give her chemotherapy because such treatment could terminate the pregnancy -- a violation of the Dominican Constitution, which bans abortion. Some 20 days after she was admitted to the hospital, she finally started receiving treatment.

She died Friday, a hospital official said.

Fights over abortion rights

At the time the treatment started, Rosa Hernandez, the girl's mother, said she tried to convince doctors and the Dominican government to make an exception so that her daughter's life could be saved.

"My daughter's life is first. I know that (abortion) is a sin and that it goes against the law ... but my daughter's health is first," Hernandez said.

The teen died from complications of the disease, said Dr. Antonio Cabrera, the legal representative for the hospital.

"They have killed me, I'm dead, dead. I'm nothing," her mother said. " She was the reason for my existence. I no longer live. Rosa has died. Let the world know that Rosa is dead."

The patient was 13 weeks pregnant.

Her body rejected a blood transfusion and did not respond to the chemotherapy, and her condition worsened overnight, Cabrera said.

She then suffered a miscarriage early Friday, followed by cardiac arrest, and doctors were unable to revive her.

Representatives from the Dominican Ministry of Health, the Dominican Medical College, the hospital and the girl's family had talked for several days before deciding to go forward with the chemotherapy.

The case sparked renewed debate over abortion in the Dominican Republic, with some lawmakers calling on officials to reconsider the abortion ban.

According to Article 37 of the Dominican Constitution, "the right to life is inviolable from the moment of conception and until death." Dominican courts have interpreted this as a strict mandate against abortion. Article 37, passed in 2009, also abolished the death penalty.

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